Overcoming obstacles to success: The key to personal and organizational growth

Human beings have an incredible capacity to overcome challenges and obstacles. I have witnessed many inspirational stories of people who faced significant physical, intellectual or situational challenges, yet they were able to achieve what many would believe to be unachievable goals.

Kyle Maynard was born without arms (his end at the elbow), and without legs (which end at the knee.) Given these significant handicaps, he still managed to wrestle for one of the best high school teams in the southeast, set weight lifting records, fight in mixed martial arts matches, and is the only person to have summited Mt. Kilimanjaro without prosthetics.

Charlotte Brown is one of the best high school pole vaulter in the state of Texas, yet she is blind. Charlotte has cataracts that, over time, have completely deprived her of her sight. She has learned to use a beeper in the vaulting box to let her know when she should plant her pole and initiate her vault. She also uses a series of beepers on the track to allow her to anchor her relay team.

Louis Zamperini was a troubled teen who went on to run in the 1936 Olympics. He survived 47 days in a raft at sea after surviving a WWII plane crash that killed 8 of the 11 men on his B-24 rescue plane. He was then captured by the Japanese and severely beaten and tortured for two years due to his international notoriety and unwillingness to spread propaganda for the Japanese who wanted to exploit his fame, yet he survived. He returned to the states a war hero where he then dealt with and successfully battled post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism. Louis spent the remainder of his life helping others, finally succumbing to pneumonia this year at the age of 97.

These are incredible human beings who have overcome significant personal and situational challenges. What differentiates them from most was that they clearly knew their challenge. They identified their obstacles and were able to martial all their talents to overcome the challenges presented by these physical and situational hurdles.

Even more importantly, they were able to solicit the support from others who also clearly understood the challenges each of these three magnificent people were trying to overcome. One’s personal journey to success requires self-awareness, focus, and the support of others. I contend that the clear objectives defined by these extraordinary circumstances helped Kyle, Charlotte, and Louis to achieve at such a high level. But what about the rest of us?

So often people navigate life without knowing their true challenges or obstacles. They are faced with minor, but at times significant, behavioral challenges that are every bit as limiting as the loss of a limb, blindness, or situational challenges that threaten our lives over a periods of time.

Understanding the specific behavioral challenges and being able to communicate those challenges to others with clarity and accuracy is paramount to people achieving success. The challenge is that most of us are unaware. We experience self-deception or inaccurate perceptions of self. This can compound by success. When people achieve financial success or situational success having harmed others, breaking the law, taking advantage of situations, or using less than desirable means to achieve, they may attribute their success to their approach, strong will and talent, but this can be very miss leading.

When people take advantage of others or fail to engage based on reality, having taken responsibility for their personal behavior and with the purpose of doing the right thing, they will eventually damage themselves and or others.

For Kyle, Charlotte, and Louis the significant challenges were evident. They were so significant that they could not ignore them. Unlike a significantly debilitating combination of behavioral skills that are not always obvious or understood at a material level, their challenges were definable in objective terms that all could be seen and understood by them and those around them.

The combination of low Compromise, low Accommodation, low Social Skills, and low Goodwill can be as debilitating—in terms of achieving goals—as missing limbs, blindness, and constant physical and mental torture, yet many people do not know that they have some element of this combination that is causing them to not achieve their at their highest level.

Understanding the material impact of low score for these behaviors is important. Extremely low Compromise will cause people to be cynical and judgmental, having formulated strong opinions before engaging with others. Extremely low Accommodation will cause people to become fixed in their positions, unwilling to move in new direction, and unwilling to meet the needs of others. Significantly low Social Skills will cause people to not engage with others, to be inappropriate with their engagements, and to not form bonds with others. Low Goodwill will cause people to not care and to lack compassion and feeling for others.

When we experience any combination of these four behaviors, we are engaging life with a handicap, and in many situations, an unrecognized and unseen handicap. When facing all four, we may be in a critical situation and unaware of the severity.

The good news is that these four behaviors are learned, they are not genetic. Once people understand the material nature of their behavioral profile relative to these four learned behaviors, they can begin to address them. They can communicate the dynamic to friends, family, and colleagues who can support them in overcoming these changes and achieving success and, more importantly, happiness.

Seek insight from others, solicit objective data to help you understand, and address these dynamics of personality. There are key genetic behaviors (Energy, Dominance, Discipline, Reflectiveness, Authority, and Competing) that can be managed, but the immediate opportunity for us all is for us all to develop and refine learned behaviors (Compromise, Accommodation, Social Skills, Goodwill, Communication, Collaboration, Expertise, Stability, Reward, Avoidance, and Decision Making) that can be changed. Once you understand these dynamics in objective terms, you to will be able to achieve what you may have believed to be unachievable, just like Kyla, Charlotte, and Louis.

Note: Scores and profiles referenced in this article refer to characteristics defined in the EurekaConnect Behavioral Dynamics program